Conducted by neuroscientists at the University of Freiburg, the study paired a black-and-white version of the Mona Lisa with eight other versions of the image where the angle of the mouth had been adjusted so that four looked sadder and four looked happier. All versions shown to participants in random order 30 times. The original painting was judged to be happy no less than 97 percent of the time.
Co-author Juergen Kornmeier said,
“We really were astonished. There may be some ambiguity in another aspect… but not ambiguity in the sense of happy versus sad.”
In 2015, scientists from the UK’s Sheffield Hallam University claimed that Leonardo had developed a technique for an “uncatchable smile” that is visible only from certain angles, and almost seems to disappear when one looks too closely.
The general consensus is that the Mona Lisa depicts Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine merchant, her true identity is still open to debate. One possibility is that the portrait is based on Salai, a young man who was Leonardo’s apprentice—and maybe even his lover. Even more out there is the notion that the artist was depicting his own mother, and that she was a Chinese slave.
We may never know, but whoever they were, they are eternally happy.
(via Artnet News)